Saturday, January 28, 2017

Supernatural Friday: Chinese New Year Begins--Year of the Rooster

The Chinese New Year 2017 begins January 28th. This year it is the year of the rooster. Every twelve years there is a Rooster year, beginning at Chinese New Year. A year of the Rooster always comes after a Monkey year and before a Dog year. Years of the Rooster include 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, and 2029.

2017 Is a Fire Rooster Year.   Characteristics of a person born under this Chinese Zodiac has them as trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping, and responsibility at work. Roosters have five virtues: literary, military prowess, courageous, benevolent, and trustworthy.
According to Chinese astrology, the year of one's birth sign is the unluckiest year in the 12-year cycle. People in their zodiac year are believed to offend  the God of Age, and incur his curse. In a year of your sign, horoscopes for all aspects of your life will not be very good. However, you can reverse fate by attention to the God of Age “star” and warding off bad luck.
By Wearing Red — Drive Away Bad Luck
Red is one of the luckiest colors in Chinese culture, standing for prosperity, loyalty, success, and happiness. Red can drive away bad luck and evil spirits.
And wearing red during your zodiac year (or zodiac year) will bring you good luck and give you a good year. You can wear a belt, socks, shoes, or clothing, all in the color, red. Red underwear is highly recommended during your zodiac year.
However, there is a rule that you need to pay attention to, or the red won't ward off the bad luck. You cannot buy, for example, the red underwear yourself. It should be bought by a spouse, family member, or friend.
By Wearing Jade Accessories
Besides wearing red, you can also wear jade accessories during your zodiac year to ward off bad luck, like pendants, earrings, rings, and bracelets.
By Facing the Right Direction — Face Away from Tai Sui
People are often told by fortune-tellers that Tai Sui will bring bad luck. In theory, you can make use of Tai Sui to bring good luck, by facing in the opposite direction. For the roosters this year, the position of Tai Sui for each year in its cycle, you must face west (270 °).
People adjust the direction of beds, seats, desks, and even where they live and work to get Tai Sui behind them", in an effort to incur good luck. For example, in 2017 (a year of the Rooster) Tai Sui is in the west. In 2017 Roosters adjust your furniture and dwellings to face east to get good luck. When doing something important, such as a business negotiation, Roosters should face east, and you will stand a good chance of succeeding.
To keep the Chinese lunar calendar within half a month of the traditional solar calendar, there will be a leap month in 2017 (a second lunar month 6 starting July 23rd). So there are 13 lunar months instead of 12, which means there are 384 days in Rooster year 2017.

The Chinese Zodiac has the horse, tiger, rat, rooster, dragon, snake, goat, monkey, ox, dog, cat, rabbit and the boar.

The new year celebrations were born out of fear and myth. There is an ancient Chinese legend that told of a man-eating predatory beast called Nian. This creature was fierce, and had a long head and sharp horn. Nian dwelled deep in the sea most of the year, but on every Chinese New Year Eve it climbed onto the shore, and devour livestock and harm humans in a near-by village. Every Chinese New Year's Eve, the villagers would take their old and young and head for the mountains to hide from the monster.

One Chinese New Year's Eve, a grey haired man appeared in the village. He asked permission to stay for the night and assured everyone that he would chase away the beast. No one believed him. When it was time to go hide in the mountains, the old man steadfastly refused to do that. The villagers departed without him.

The beast arrived at the village to wreck havoc as usual, but it was met with a sudden burst of exploding firecrackers. Startled by the noise, the flashes of light and red banners flying about, it turned about and fled back into the sea.

The next day, when the villagers returned from the mountains, they found everything intact and safe. The old man had left, but they found the remains of the three precious items he had used to chase the beast Nian away. They all agreed that the old man must be a deity who had come to help free them of the beast.

From then on, every Chinese New Year's Eve, families hung red banners, set off fire crackers, and light their lamps the whole night through, awaiting the Chinese New Year. The custom spread far and wide and became a grand traditional celebration of the "Passing of Nian" ("Nian" in Chinese means "year"). So celebrating the Chinese New Year is "passing of Nian" or "Guo Nian" in Chinese. 

Today, the 15-day New Year festivities are celebrated with a week of vacation in metropolitan areas of China. Much like the Western New Year (January 1st), the biggest celebration is on the eve of the holiday. But aside from New Year's Eve, there are other important days of the 15-day New Year Festival, including:

JIE CAI CENG: Welcoming the Gods of Wealth and Prosperity On the 5th day of New Year's, it is believed that the gods of prosperity come down from the heavens. Businesses will often participate in setting off firecrackers as they believe it will bring them prosperity and good fortune for their business.

YUAN XIAO JIE: Festival of Lanterns The 15th day of the New Year is known as The Festival of Lanterns and marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. All types of lanterns are lit throughout the streets and often poems and riddles are often written for entertainment. There are also paper lanterns on wheels created in the form of either a rabbit or the animal of the year (Pig for 2007). The rabbit lantern stems from a Chinese myth or fairytale about a female goddess named "Chang E" who jumped onto the moon. So she wouldn't travel alone, she brought a rabbit with her to keep her company. It is said that if your heart is pure enough, you can see the goddess Chang E and her rabbit on the moon on this day.

Called "hong bao" in Mandarin, the red envelopes filled with money are typically only given to children or unmarried adults with no job. If you're single and working and making money, you still have to give the younger ones the hong bao money. The color red denotes good luck/fortune and happiness/abundance in the Chinese Culture and is often worn or used for decoration in other celebrations.

The Dragon is present in many Chinese cultural celebrations as the Chinese people often think of themselves as descendants of the mythical creature. On the fifth day of the New Year when many people have to start going back to work, they will also have the Dancing Dragons perform in the front of the office building. On the 15th day of the New Year (Yuan Xiao Jie), they will also have a lot of dancing dragon performances. The dragon represents prosperity, good luck and good fortune.

Traditional Foods

The Chinese New Year's Eve meal is the most important dinner of the year. Typically, families gather at a designated relative's house for dinner, but these days, many families often celebrate New Year's Eve dinner at a restaurant. Many restaurants require reservations months in advance. There are also some families that hire a professional chef to come cook at their house. Chefs are often busy running from one home to another cooking dinners for different families on New Year's Eve.

Chinese New Year is a 15-day celebration and each day, many families rotate celebrations between homes of their relatives. The festivies are day-long and sometimes, a family ends up cooking two meals for their relatives, once at lunch and once at dinner. These dishes used to be all made from scratch, but now people can easily buy them prepackaged at the supermarkets.
Eight Treasures Rice (contains glutinous rice, walnuts, different colored dry fruit, raisins, sweet red bean paste, jujube dates, and almonds). 

"Tang Yuan" - black sesame rice ball soup; or a Won Ton soup.
Chicken, duck, fish and pork dishes.
"Song Gao", literally translates to "loose cake"- which is made of rice which has been coarsely ground and then formed into a small, sweet round cake.
"Jiu Niang Tang" - sweet wine-rice soup which contains small glutinous rice balls
a sweet soup made of cut-up fruit: Cut fruit is added into hot/warm water which has had a thickening agent (like cornstarch).

Based on the Lunar Calendar
The date of Chinese New Year changes each year as it is based on the lunar calendar. While the western Gregorian calendar is based on the earth’s orbit around the sun, China and most Asian countries use the lunar calendar that is based on the moon’s orbit around the earth. Chinese New Year always falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Other Asian countries such as Korea, Japan and Vietnam also celebrate new year using the lunar calendar. 
Though Buddhism and Daoism have unique customs during the New Year, the Chinese New Year is far older than both religions. Chinese New Year is rooted in much a celebration of spring just like Easter or Passover. 

Depending on where rice is grown in China, the rice season lasts from roughly May to September (north China), April to October (Yangtze River Valley), or March to November (Southeast China). The New Year was likely the start of preparations for a new growing season. 
Spring cleaning is a common theme during this time. Chinese people clean out their homes during the holiday. There is another possible reason for the New Year celebration just a way to break up the boredom of the long winter months. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Supernatural Friday: Holy Guacamole! It's the Chupacabra!

El chupacabra, or just chupacabra, is a legendary cryptozoology creature that has been haunting various areas of the globe from the initial reports from Puerto Rico in March 1995. The term “chupacabra” is derived from Spanish, with chupar meaning “to suck” and cabra meaning “goat.”
In March and August 1995, attacks on more than 150 farm animals left officials dumbfounded. Eyewitness accounts in local newspapers spoke of a creature with a “reptilian body, oval head, bulging red eyes, fanged teeth, and long, darting tongue.” Farm animals in Puerto Rico were found to be drained of blood with puncture wounds in the neck, with no meat taken from the animals’ bodies. The situation in Puerto Rico reached such a fever pitch that Mayor Jose Soto recruited volunteers to hunt the creature weekly for nearly a year, with no success.
When chupacabras are reported, they usually fall into one of two categories. First, and most common in connection to the Puerto Rico incidents, is a chupacabra that is reptile-like in nature, with leathery greenish-gray skin and spines running down the spine of the back. Most ties it was said to be approximately three to four feet tall and bipedal – standing and hopping like a kangaroo.
The second that is considered the more common version of the chupacabra is more like a strange breed of wild dog or coyote. This version lacks the hair of a dog, but features the pronounced spinal ridge or “spikes” similar to the reptilian chupacabra. This four-legged, dog-like chupacabra is also known for fearsome fangs and claws used for draining animal’s blood. The “mark” of the chupacabra on the victims is typically one to three holes, and in the shape of an upside-down triangle where the three holes are apparent.
While the chupacabra or “goat sucker” seems to be a recent cryptozoology finding, the Mayans may have encountered this cryptoid centuries ago. In
Mayan mythology, it was known as the death bat or vampire bat. Stories reveal a creature with a bat or lizard-like face, two arms and the ability to turn into a statue during the day. The creature’s sharp snout even lends itself as a device that could suck blood from victims. Even more findings identify terms like “goat sucker” found in Mayan literature as early as 1400 B.C. No doubt, this must be the vampire bat, as it did suck blood, most times from animals.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Join Me at Marscon This Weekend

I will  be a guest at Marscon at the Doubletree Hotel, 50 Kingsmill Road in Williamsburg, Virginia this upcoming Martin Luther King Weekend (January 13th through 15th). I have my schedule (below), plus you can view what other panels, workshops and more will be happening during the convention:

My schedule
Friday 9pm – Ghost Hunt--meet in the hotel lobby (yes, I am leading this and you can bring your own camera, camcorders and recorders to record for yourself too)

Saturday 10am – Fantastic Beasts and How to Write Them - How do you describe the movement of a dragon? What happens when a shapeshifter becomes a sea wyvern? These authors discuss the technicalities of creating larger than life creatures realistically. Panelists: Todd McCaffrey, Mari Mancusi, Pamela K. Kinney, D.C. McLaughlin

Saturday 2pm – Cosplay: Old School vs. New School - Before it became known as Cosplay it was simply known as Costuming - What is the difference or is there any? Panelists: Birdy, Erica Bortnick, Cheralyn Lambeth, Mera Babineaux, Pamela Kinney

Saturday 7pm – Dragons in Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction - Panelists will talk about how dragons are incorporated in these genre fiction and what makes the dragon a hot commodity for them. Panelists: Pamela K. Kinney, Margaret S. McGraw, Mari Mancusi, Joelle Presby

Sunday 10am – A World full of Monsters - From Blutbads to Zauberbiest, La Llorna & The Jersey Devil - join us as we explore the worlds of Grimm, Supernatural, and Teen Wolf and their use of the many creatures from history and other diverse cultures. Monsters such as the Kitsune of Japan, the Djinn of the Middle East, or the Chupacabra of Mexico and they have been used in these shows’ interpretations as well as some of the cultures that brought them. See what it takes to defend humanity from creatures that do more than just go bump in the night. Panelists: Pamela K. Kinney, D.C. McLaughlin

Sunday 12noon – Indie Publishing: Getting Known as an Author - Most people understand what marketing is, but far fewer understand the role that publicity pays in selling your work. One without the other often falls flat…but when your local newspaper won’t talk to you, how do you get publicity? Come hear how our experts do it. Panelists: Chris Kennedy, Pamela K. Kinney, Kim Headlee, Tabitha Grace Challis, D.C. McLaughlin

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Supernatural Friday: How Really Abominable is the Yeti?

With first snow of the year in my area, winter, the cold and all that snow made me think of a cryptid perfect for the first Supernatural Friday blog post of 2017. The Yeti, also known as the Abominable Snowman. So get a cup of hot chocolate, sit back with your computer, laptop, or tablet, and enjoy reading.
The Yeti is a cryptid creature that has long inhabited the remote and mostly uninhabited Himalayan Mountains, including Mount Everest, in central Asia, including Nepal, Tibet, China, and southern Russia. This being has been mainly seen as an erect bipedal animal, usually over six feet tall, with weight estimated between 200 and 400 pounds, covered with red to gray hair, and it makes a whistling sound, has a bad smell, and is usually nocturnal and secretive.
The Yeti has long been a revered figure in Himalayan mythology that predates Buddhism. The various peoples inhabiting Tibet and Nepal in the heart of the lofty range, which includes Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain, do not see the Yeti as a proto-human type of creature but instead a man-like animal that seems to exist with supernatural powers. The Yeti comes and goes like a hairy ghost, just showing up rather than being found by tracking. Stories are told of the creature having been seen flying through the air; killing goats and other livestock; kidnapping young women who are taken back to a cave to rear children; and throwing stones at humans.
Even the indigenous names of the Yeti reflect its mythological character. In some regional dialects, it is known as Meh-Teh, or Migoi—translated as “wild man of the snows.” There had been one journalist stationed in Calcutta who mistranslated one of a Sherpa’s words for the Yeti as “filthy” – or in British empirical lingo – “Abominable.” This is no doubt where the term, Abominable Snowman came from.  The Tibetan word Yeti is a compound word that roughly translates as "bear of a rocky place," while another Tibetan name MichĂȘ means "man bear." The Sherpas call it Dzu-teh, translated "cattle bear" and is sometimes used to refer to the Himalayan brown bear. Bun Manchi is a Nepali word for "jungle man." Other names include Kang Admi or "snow man" which is sometimes combined as Metoh Kangmi or "man-bear snowman." Modern Yeti researchers, including mountaineer Reinhold Messner, believes that Yetis are actually bears that sometimes walk upright.
The Yeti's existence has long been known by Sherpas and other Himalayan inhabitants who observed the mysterious creature for thousands of years, including an account by Pliny the Elder, a Roman traveler, who wrote in Natural History in the first century AD: "Among the mountainous districts of the eastern parts of India…we find the Satyr, an animal of extraordinary swiftness. These go sometimes on four feet, and sometimes walk erect; they have also the features of a human being. Due to their swiftness, these creatures are never to be caught, except when they are either aged or sickly…. These people screech in a frightful manner; their bodies are covered with hair, their eyes are of a sea-green color, and their teeth like those of the dog."
The legend of the Yeti was first reported to the western world in 1832 in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal by British explorer B.H. Hodgson, who said his guides had previously spotted a hairy bipedal ape in the high mountains. Hodgson believed the red-haired creature was an orangutan.
1899 was the first recorded Yeti footprints. This was done by Laurence Waddell. He reported in his book Among the Himalayas that the footprints were left by a large upright hominid. Waddell was, like Hodgson, skeptical of the stories of the mysterious ape-man after talking to locals who had not actually seen a Yeti but had heard stories of them. Waddell figured the tracks were left by a bear. The first detailed sighting of the Yeti came from N.A. Tombazi, a Greek photographer on a British expedition to the Himalayas, He watched an upright hairy figure walk like that for a while, stopping on occasion to uproot or pull at some dwarf rhododendron bushes. He remembered to grab his camera to take a photo, but the Yeti had vanished by then.

Yeti, not unlike Sasquatch and other legendary cryptids fascinate up for years. And we feel safe, being indoors in our warm homes, reading about a monster that stalks the freezing cold, snow-ridden landscape of the Himalayan mountainous range. It can’t get us—right? But the next time you hear something outside of your home in the dead of night, where snow covers the land like some icy blanket and your breath leaves your mouth like frozen clouds, it might be smarter to stay in that warm bed instead of investigating those abominable sounds.